We can say that this is a direct continuation of the topic about the Su-27 (link), since the Su-35 is really a continuation of the Su-27, and what a one!
In fact, the Su-35 began to be born when the Su-27 was just gaining its authority in the world, in the early 80s of the last century. It is worth recalling that the Su-27 was conceived solely as an air defense fighter-interceptor or an Air Force fighter. That is, maneuverable air combat with enemy aircraft without any shock problems there. Narrow specialization, so to speak.
And what is most interesting, despite numerous attempts to "teach" the Su-27 to use air-to-surface missiles, bombs, anti-ship missiles, all this eventually remained at the level of options, because, in fact, the Su-27 did not have this main thing: specialized means for detecting and recognizing ground targets. Well, the relatively low efficiency of unguided weapons in the end left the Su-27 almost the last "clean" fighter in the world.
But he had something that many other aircraft could only wish for: simply stunning range, excellent maneuverability and a good range of weapons to defeat any aircraft in any conditions.
It is not in vain that the British were frankly frightened when the Su-27 "accidentally" sent a missile somewhere. RC-135 had to be washed inside after the flight.
Su-35, and speaking specifically, in our case, the Su-35S is, first of all, a multifunctional fighter, no matter what generation. In one of the articles, I took the liberty of calling it a reasonable compromise between desires and possibilities, and I think that I turned out to be completely right about this car.
Indeed, what could be simpler and more efficient - to take the glider of the best 4th generation fighter and insert there all the latest that was available, including PAK FA developments. Well, "invisibility" was not delivered, so it is, invisibility, and now it is very so-so. Even those who are really "stealth". If you really need it, they'll see it.
So the experiment on the total processing of the “clean” Su-27 fighter into the universal Su-35 turned out in full. A plane came out, which is only slightly inferior to the 5th generation fighters, and who compared it in battle? Here the question is somewhat different, it might be worth checking, but the price of 5th generation machines does not provide for such experiments. It is enough how many in the USA the same F-35s are ruined in routine flights and how much it takes off. And speaking of combat...
In order to talk about what can be proposed as improvements for the Su-35SM (as it seems to be called), it is worth evaluating the difference between the Su-27 and Su-35.
Su-35 is pretty (6 tons) heavier. The weight went to strengthen the airframe (which entailed an increase in resource) and an increase in payload. The 35th takes 11 kg of fuel against 500 from the 9400th. Tanks in keels are generally original. By the way, the main external difference between the Su-27 and the Su-35 was born right there - the front landing gear with a double wheel.
Armament, or rather, its weight, remained at the same level, all the same 8 tons. But you can not deny yourself anything, except for conventional air-to-air missiles, you can hang everything that the weapon control system “gobbles up”, up to the suspension of the Yakhont anti-ship missiles in a lightweight air version.
The AL-41F1S engines provide a maximum speed of up to 2500 km/h, which makes the Su-35 one of the fastest aircraft in the world, and its supersonic non-afterburning flight generally puts it on the podium in this regard. Plus a controlled thrust vector. Now, of course, many models have this extremely useful option in the design, but here is the question of “running in”.
Questions of automation. An intermediate link in the evolution between the Su-27 and Su-35 is the Su-30. Our first wagon capable of working for any purpose. But in the Su-30, weapons systems, including high-precision ones, were controlled by a second crew member. The Su-35 allows the pilot to both control the machine and use weapons.
True, this is not in the usual sense. The Su-35 control system works in such a way that the pilot not only controls the aircraft, but rather informs the computer system about his intentions to perform this or that maneuver. The computer calculates the options and issues an instruction to the control system, which is already using aerodynamic control surfaces and rotary engine nozzles. For an aerodynamically unstable aircraft - rescue plus a bonus is super-maneuverability.
The same goes for weapon control. That is, the pilot in the Su-35 is quite capable of working for two and at the same time working quite efficiently. As for countering the enemy, this has long been implemented, the system, receiving “hello” from sensors, automatically turns on electronic warfare modules or starts throwing heat traps. Well, at least she should.
And yes, one crew member instead of two is a weight saving of 1,5 tons. Armchair, catapult, controls…
An important thing is the H036 radar with a phased antenna array. Quite powerful for a fighter (20 watts), able to see far and clearly. The unmasking factor is also relevant, but here the question is the response of all systems. It would be interesting to look at the confrontation between the less noticeable F-000 and the weaker radar (the American has something around 35 watts) on the subject of “who was there before”.
In general - a huge work, stretching for several decades. Now it's time for another step forward on the path of improvements and upgrades. What can be done here to keep the Su-35 among the best aircraft in the world?
Here there would be no happiness, but misfortune helped. In fact, we can say that the Russian Aerospace Forces "flew" with the Su-57. We will not go into details of why we never saw this aircraft in service with the Aerospace Forces, in fact, what difference does it make what became an obstacle? The result is important: the fifth-generation fighter did not become one, and, obviously, it will not be very soon, if at all. At least while the United States and China are churning out their new generation aircraft in batches, we have complete silence.
But maybe it's even better that way. Today we have such a situation that the Russian army is the world's leading army in terms of having "unparalleled in the world" weapons.
But we have the development of this very “not having”, some of which can definitely be used to modernize existing equipment. And since we are not destined to see our “flying Armata” in service, why not send the developments on the T-50 into service by installing it on the Su-35SM?
The new generation radar H036 "Belka" is good in reviews. It is very difficult to judge whether it can surpass the American AN / APG-81, which is installed on the F-35, there is no data to make a sane comparison. But the claimed 400 km range compared to 300 km for the American radar is a serious statement.
N036 consists of three components, in fact, N036-1-01 X-band in the bow, N036B-1-01 X-band as a side-looking radar and N036L-1-01 L-band on the flaps. Almost everything is like that of the Americans, which cannot but rejoice, since our achievements in the field of radio electronics are not what we would like. X-band radars are very effective against stealth aircraft, which have a lot of composite materials in their design.
Some sources talk about the installation of a certain Irbis-E product on the Su-35SM, if it is H036 adapted for this aircraft, everything is fine. Of course, we will not comment on some things such as the range of the radar "five times higher than that of the Irbis-E" and leave it behind the scenes, as well as the fact that "Irbis-E has outstripped the whole world by 20 years." It would be just great if the new radars are just world-class, without the usual "not having ..." hysteria.
Engines. AL-41FM or something else is a big question, since in general it would be nice to change the AL-41F1S with electromechanical control (exactly standing on the Su-35S) to AL-41F1 with a digital control system. In addition, the AL-41F1 is 500 kgf more powerful. A trifle, but nice, or rather, there are no trifles here. As in air combat, weapons are never at least enough.
Armament. It has already been announced here that the main striking power of the Su-35SM will be the R-37M and R-77M missiles. The R-37M is a very unpleasant thing from the point of view of the enemy, 60 kg of warhead, flight speed of 6M and a range of more than 300 km (in many sources up to 400 km). The missile is good for attacking large targets such as strategic bombers and AWACS aircraft, tankers and other targets. The fighter will most likely leave her, the only question here is the range to the target at the time of launch. 4 rockets is a decent supply.
R-77M - weapon close combat, if 160 km can be called that. The main targets for the R-77M are highly maneuverable fighters, helicopters, and cruise missiles. The modern active seeker with AFAR makes evasion problematic even at long distances, the rocket is "tenacious". 8 rockets on knots is more than enough to solve most problems in the air.
EW. After the Khibiny did not show themselves at all in the NWO, more precisely, they showed their complete helplessness, especially in automatic mode, it remains to rely on developments on the PAK FA theme. That is, the Himalayas.
To what extent the Himalayas may turn out to be better than the Khibiny, we will not say, since there are no grounds and reliable information for this. In general, the question is, what could be worse than Khibiny?
If the elements of the electronic warfare system are really interfaced with the Belka radar through the weapons control complex, this can really play well in favor of the Su-35SM, giving the aircraft the main thing - protection from enemy missiles in automatic mode. If not, it’s sad, but in a bad scenario, the elements of the Himalayas, hidden under the skin of the aircraft, unlike the Khibiny, will not provide additional aerodynamic resistance and worsen the flight performance of the aircraft.
And more about electronics. In 2021, with a huge delay from the schedule, Ruselectronics nevertheless introduced the S-111 communication system, which provides hack-proof data exchange between aircraft, drones and command posts on the ground and in the sky. The system was developed for the Su-57, but why not use it to upgrade the Su-35SM?
In general, everything that was developed within the framework of the PAK FA program can and should be tried by all means to shove into the Su-35. We are not able to give the Aerospace Forces the proper number of Su-57s, there is no money for this, no capacities, no workers with the necessary qualifications. This is all clear. The fifth generation fighter is a toy for armies, where huge sums are spent on weapons, that is, not for us.
There is a difference between doing business in the defense industry and arming your army. And it is very large, just look at how things are going in China and the United States. And this comparison is not at all in favor of the Americans.
If we do not have the strength and ability to put into practice all these "analogues", then it makes sense to squeeze everything out of the old Soviet legacy to the maximum. Actually, what our military-industrial complex mainly does. In addition to missiles, sorry, nothing new is foreseen in our country.
And therefore, since the engineers have at their disposal the Su-27 glider, which is simply crazy in quality, on its basis it is possible and necessary to continue creating models that can be at least on par with Western technology until something changes in the country. Which I personally highly doubt.
Therefore, the once again modernized Su-27, that is, the Su-35, produced in sufficient quantities, capable of replacing the Su-27P and Su-27SM, is exactly what our Aerospace Forces need.